In his 13th adventure, ever imperiled German detective Bernie Gunther investigates a string of murders in Greece with possible ties to Nazi war crimes.
The year is 1957. The one-time Commissar of Berlin's Murder Comission is now hiding out in Munich as morgue attendant "Christof Ganz," happy to be "far away from Bernie Gunther and everything to do with him." That includes the common (wrong) assumption that since Bernie worked among loathsome Nazis during the war, he was one. After escaping a lethal trap set by a dirty cop from his past, Gunther accepts a job as claims adjuster for a powerful insurance company through influential attorney Max Merten. Sent to Athens to assess the sinking of a ship, he encounters a serious setback when its owner, former Wehrmacht Navy man Siegfried Witzel, is found shot through the eyes. Recognizing the M.O. as identical to the one used by a murderer during the war, a Greek cop named Leventis makes Gunther stay on the case, which points back to the confiscation of valuables from tens of thousands of Jews from Salonika who were sent to Auschwitz. In typical top form, Kerr (Prussian Blue, 2017, etc.) provides valuable insights into the times, exposing the moral failings of Adenauer's amnesty for Nazi war criminals and the widespread hatred of Germans in Greece, which in the face of Germany's so-called economic miracle has yet to receive a penny in reparations. As ever, Gunther's mordant witticisms run through the book. Of a tall, attractive woman offering him her charms, he says, "Her dark brown hair was as long as Rapunzel's and I was seriously thinking of weaving it into a ladder so that I might climb up and kiss her."
Inspired by real people and events, the latest novel by the celebrated author of the Berlin Noir trilogy is a deep but breezy work in which even the most trustworthy characters can harbor dark secrets.
Valentine Pescatore, a private investigator working under contract to Homeland Security, teams with sometime cop, sometime crusading journalist Leo Méndez to penetrate the conspiracy surrounding the killing of 10 African women in a Mexican motel.
The Chicago-born Pescatore, who became a PI in Argentina after messing up as a U.S. Border Patrol agent, has recently relocated from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., to work again for Isabel Puente, his former boss and one-time lover. Under government protection, Méndez has moved to San Diego with his wife and children to escape the Mexican Mafia and its "rip crews"—roving robbers and killers. At the heart of the motel murders is an illicit scheme involving an American financial outfit with ties to Mexico that is being investigated for money laundering. After an Eritrean cleaning woman is sexually assaulted by one of the company's partners and escapes to Mexico with an incriminating flash drive from her attacker's computer, her life is in danger. Ultimately, wherever they go to connect the dots of the case—Mexico, southern California, Guatemala, Italy—Pescatore and Méndez are under threat as well. (Different troubles await Pescatore in Paris, where a breakup with his counterterrorism-agent girlfriend, Fatima, seems likely.) This latest installment in a series including Triple Crossing (2011) and The Convert's Song (2014) is about as tightly woven and rock-solid as international thrillers get. Rotella is as good at setting up action scenes as he is at springing them (which is saying something: the shootouts are terrific). The crisp dialogue feeds the sculpted plot and vice versa. There is nary a wasted moment in the book or one in which Rotella isn't in complete command. The entertaining combo of Pescatore and Méndez is icing on the cake.
Rotella's latest is a tense, gritty thriller—perfectly seedy when it needs to be and near-perfect in its overall execution.
A Virginia mom dutifully treading the path toward middle-class respectability is thrown down the rabbit hole when she’s accused of drug dealing and worse.
Despite having been taken from an abusive father and grown up in a series of group homes and foster homes, Melanie Barrick seems to have landed on her feet. While she works as a dispatcher at Diamond Trucking, her husband, Ben, studies history at James Madison University, where his mentor is grooming him for a tenure-track job, and her 3-month-old son, Alex, is taking baby steps toward becoming his own person. The wrecking ball is lowered on Melanie’s life when she’s late picking up Alex at day care and learns that Social Services has already spirited him away after hearing that the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office has found nearly half a kilo of cocaine hidden in the boy’s nursery together with all the evidence they need to convict Melanie of intent to sell. In short order, Melanie is arrested for assaulting a police officer, hauled off to jail, and threatened with five years in prison. Her Social Services hearing is over before it begins, and the preliminary hearing on the criminal charges goes no better. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse—unless she finds out that Ben has been lying to her for months about a very important subject and she’s charged with the murder of a man she’s only seen once before. Deputy commonwealth attorney Amy Kaye, pulled off the case of a serial rapist to slam the prison door on the Coke Mom so that her incompetent, politically minded boss, Aaron Dansby, can burnish his resume and run for higher office, smells a rat, but her attempts to undermine the case against Melanie are as unavailing as her attempts to link the Coke Mom to the Whispering Rapist.
Parks (Say Nothing, 2017, etc.) dishes out another irresistible descent into hell for a heroine who regards her harrowing plight with a sobering verdict: “It was like hitting a new bottom every day.”
Still traumatized by the death of his wife in a sailing accident 18 months ago, San Francisco homicide detective Michael O'Higgins is further tested on his first day back on the job by a gruesome double murder.
Rishi Chaundhry, an Indian man, and his family's sexy young nanny, Bharti Kumar, were both stabbed to death in their Nob Hill mansion. Rishi's aloof father, Nirad, a billionaire favored to become India's next prime minister, blames the killings on Rishi's distraught widow, Asha. He claims she acted in a jealous rage after learning her husband was carrying on with Bharti. In an odd coincidence, O'Higgins had just met and been drawn to Asha on a therapeutic ferry ride he took to deal with his fear of open water. (He still blames himself for the death of his wife, whom he was unable to save.) The more intensely he becomes involved with Asha, whose children are snatched and flown off to India by her father-in-law, the more his friends on the force worry about his psychological fitness. An Afghanistan veteran, the detective "regretted that he was not back at war, where things would be simple to understand." But when O'Higgins is attacked by an intruder sent for Bharti's cellphone, the possibility that Nirad had something to do with the killings grows stronger. While Harrington's understatement can be a strength, the emotional payoff is a bit more muted than one might hope for. And does the author really have his protagonist praise Michael Connelly, who wrote a blurb that's used on Harrington's books? But this is still strong, hard-edged stuff by a writer in complete control of the narrative.
Respected noir veteran Harrington (The Rat Machine, 2013, etc.) returns with a tough and thoughtful novel about grief and its consequences.
In a surreal, Wild West take on Sleeping Beauty, storied outlaw James Moxie must save his one-time lover Carol Evers from being buried alive.
Only a few people aside from Carol's shifty husband, Dwight, know that she suffers from a condition that periodically sends her spiraling into a coma resembling death and a place she calls Howltown. "Unable to shoulder the burden of caring for a woman who died so often," Moxie disappeared from her life 20 years ago. Her close friend John Bowie, in whom she also confided, has just died. Fearing that should Dwight die when she's in a coma, no one will know not to bury her, she entrusts her secret to a young maid. But it's Dwight who proves to be her greatest threat. Having had it with her freakish condition and wanting to freely lay hands on her money, he decides to make her latest "death" permanent by burying her alive. To get to her first, Moxie, who is drawn back into Carol's life by an odd funeral announcement dispatched by the maid, must elude a ruthless killer with tin legs named Smoke—a man "as monstrous as anything local folklore had invented." Other evil forces, as well as good, abound. Though the book sometimes recalls Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Malerman is too fierce an original to allow anyone else's vision to intrude on his. Where other novelists, including Gaiman, would lighten things with humor, Malerman achieves his narrative intensity with a dead seriousness. As with his other novels, this one haunts for reasons you can't quite put your finger on.
With another fascinating novel that traffics in strange and transporting states of being, Malerman (Black Mad Wheel, 2017, etc.) again defies categories and comparisons with other writers.
A gripping tale of murder and revenge written by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and author of The Far Empty (2016).
In 1999, Texas Ranger Bob Ford was murdered in West Texas. Fifteen years later, his son Danny prepares to find his father’s killer. Today, there’s a whole lot more killing in Big Bend County, where sangre exige sangre—blood demands blood. Sheriff Chris Cherry and his deputies investigate the murder of river guide Billy Bravo, whose body is found in the desert with a crushed skull. They suspect the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a “one hundred percent bad” prison gang that aims to establish its own “all-Aryan settlement” in the tiny, well-named ghost town of Killing. The members are covered in tattoos that “tell stories,” and the only way you ever leave ABT is “in a body bag.” Deputies Amé Reynosa and Ben Harper are on Cherry’s dedicated team, and readers had better not get too attached to any of them, as they don’t back away from a good gunfight. The story is grim, but the descriptions and the characters are exceptional. One person’s eyes are “the color of a cold sky threatening snow” while another’s are “flat like a TV tuned to a lost channel.” Amé weaves Spanish phrases into her speech, often but not always translated. “Lo que sea. They might as well be.” John Wesley Earl is the gang leader who thinks nothing of betraying his followers, even his own contemptible sons. “Pastor” Thurman Flowers’ Church of Purity “preaches hate and terror and violence.” Danny Ford, who narrates his chapters in the first-person, was in law enforcement until he disappeared into the ABT on his personal search for justice. Not surprisingly, the blood flows freely until nearly the end.
Assuming her best friend’s identity, Daphne Marist flees her home and husband, infant daughter in tow, for the sanctuary of a remote mansion, secretly taking a job as a live-in archivist for her favorite author.
The book's first-person narrative opens right into Daphne's fractured memories, so it isn't immediately clear to the reader why she needs refuge—but Goodman (The Widow’s House, 2017, etc.) lays intriguing clues, including a soaked baby blanket and inexplicable light signals. Once ensconced in Schuyler Bennett’s mansion, tucked away in the Catskills and next door to a mental asylum, Daphne sorts the puzzle pieces. She met Laurel Hobbes in a support group for new mothers battling postpartum depression. They bonded quickly—after all, they had a lot in common, including infant daughters named Chloe and difficult relationships with their older husbands. Soon Daphne and Laurel have similar clothes, haircuts, and gym habits. Meanwhile, Daphne’s husband, Peter, questions whether Daphne is mentally stable. Has she fully recovered from her attempt to overdose shortly after Chloe's birth? Remembering little more than his hands on her shoulders, shaking her awake in the bathtub, Daphne can only rely on Peter’s version of the story. Meanwhile, Laurel’s hold on reality begins disintegrating, and her husband, Stan, confides in Daphne that Laurel, too, has battled mental illness. In Schuyler’s archives, Daphne discovers records for Edith Sharp, an inmate at the asylum who, 40 years ago, also suffered from postpartum depression and was treated by Schuyler's father. Edith's life seems to have inspired Schuyler's short story “The Changeling.” Curious, Daphne visits the asylum, where she finds herself caught up in a nefarious plot that may cost her her very sanity. In the spirit of Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Goodman has concocted a labyrinthine tale of tangled identities, and every twist of the plot exposes more ghosts from the past preying on the present.
A Gothic thriller deliciously riddled with dark motives and shadowy paths.
A husband, horrified at his beloved wife's disappearance, begins to question their entire marriage, and his very reality, in Bell’s assured debut.
Alexandra and Marc Southwood have a wonderful marriage of 13 years and two beautiful little girls, Charlotte and Lizzie. When Alex doesn’t come home one night, Marc is flummoxed. The North Yorkshire Police aren’t immediately concerned, but when she hasn’t returned a day later and they uncover her bloody clothing, Marc fears the worst. As the police investigate, they turn up shocking things that Marc never knew about Alex, leading him to do some investigating of his own. The book is narrated entirely by Alex: she makes it clear that what she’s writing, presumably while in captivity, are guesses about Marc’s actions based on how well she knows him as well as her access to things like a recording of Marc's phone call to the police and his credit card statement; she also gives us glimpses into the early days of their marriage. Interspersed with Alex's narration are letters from Amelia Heldt, an old friend and performance artist in New York who expresses an undeniable yearning for Alex. Bell paints a convincing portrait of a woman struggling with society’s tendency to put a man’s needs and desires over those of women and the guilt that accompanies a mother’s longing for fulfillment outside of marriage and children. Alex is passionate and complex, and her almost aggressive idealism can grow tiresome, but her yearning to be something “more” is palpable, leading her to blur the lines between life and art. For readers into controversial performance art, which Alex especially admires, and art in general, there’s a lot to chew on, but even if not, the truth behind Alex’s disappearance is a doozy, and the finale is satisfying while offering plenty of food for thought. Is Alex an unreliable narrator? Of course she is, but this is no bait and switch. Bell gives us all the clues and dares us to follow them to the shocking end.
This smart, mirror maze of a thriller bristles with sharp edges, twisting familiar Gone Girl themes into Bell’s own intense creation.
After a hit-and-run kills a high school student, the court of public opinion convicts a lonely outcast.
When Jackie Reed hears her 17-year-old son, Wade, sneaking out the night before the SATs, she knows she should stop him; instead, she pops a Xanax and returns to bed. At 4 a.m., Jackie’s 13-year-old, Connor, wakes to find a rain-soaked Wade hiding something in his closet; he considers tattling but promises to keep quiet. These seemingly innocuous decisions come back to haunt Jackie and Connor the next morning. While Officer Pearl Maze was working the graveyard shift at the Havenkill, New York, police department, Amy Nathanson burst through the door claiming to have been carjacked. According to Amy, her screams summoned 17-year-old Liam Miller, whom the thief ran over during his escape. The cops canvass the neighborhood for witnesses, and the Reeds are stunned to realize that Wade matches the suspect’s description. Evidence mounts against him, and the community ostracizes his family, but still Wade refuses to divulge his whereabouts at the time of the accident. The book opens with Wade’s suicide note, then flashes back five days and unfolds from the perspectives of Jackie, Connor, Pearl, and Amy. This narrative shift maximizes suspense by forcing readers to guess at Wade’s thoughts and actions, allowing Gaylin to insightfully explore the crime’s ripple effects.
This anxiety-fueled stand-alone from Edgar nominee Gaylin (What Remains of Me, 2016, etc.) takes the gulf that naturally develops between teenagers and their families and stocks it with sharks.
If you set a thief to catch a thief, should you hire a contract killer to thwart a contract killing?
Holed up on Mackinac Island as he mourns the wife who was murdered in his last outing (A Different Lie, 2015) and the son he sent away to be brought up by someone with a less objectionable lifestyle, hit man Columbus, now calling himself Copeland, isn’t looking for any new jobs: his freelance work and his assignments for Uncle Sam have already sucked the life out of him. But his old fence, Archie Grant, comes to him with a proposition he can’t turn down. Someone’s arranged a hit on facial-recognition software designer Matthew Boone, and his two motherless boys may well be included in the package. A mutual friend has asked Archie for advice, and Archie doesn’t think much of Max Finnerich, the security expert Boone’s hired to protect his family. Could Columbus fly out West to Portland to protect Boone more proactively than Finnerich and his minions are doing? Despite thinking, “I’m the sword, not the armor,” the veteran assassin agrees to try his luck, and boy, is he lucky. In short order, he breaches Finnerich’s cursory defenses, introduces himself to a surprised Boone, and talks himself into his confidence, kills two armed men who turn up at the target’s house, and lets Peyton Martin, the ex-cop who’s the least clueless of Boone’s security detail, tell him the story of her life. But all these measures, he realizes, are nothing but temporizing unless he can identify and neutralize the assassin who’s coming after Boone—and the client who hired him in the first place.
“You’re not going to like me when this is over,” Haas’ hit man warns his readers. Maybe not, but you won’t be able to avert your eyes from a single scene in this stripped-down, dead-eyed, professional-grade actioner.